Junior middleweight contender Michael Zerafa is under heavy fire after withdrawing from his scheduled fight with Australian superstar Tim Tszyu.

The bout was set for July 7 in Newcastle, but Zerafa and his handlers refused to get on the plane due to the latest COVID outbreak and Zerafa did not want to quarantine upon returning to Melbourne.

Zerafa, who complained for years that he was being avoided by Tszyu, was quickly replaced by Steve Spark.

Jeff Fenech — a former three-division world champion — believes Zerafa got spooked after talking trash about Tszyu's father, Kostya Tszyu. Zerafa poked fun at Kostya's career-ending stoppage loss at the hands of Ricky Hatton. 

At a recent face-off, Tim Tszyu became furious when Zerafa brought up the topic.

“Maybe he saw something in Timmy’s eyes when he mentioned his dad,” Fenech told Sporting News.

“I saw something. I saw something that scared me that day. I’m serious. It was opposite to when Paul Gallen said something about Justis Huni’s dad - there was no reaction. But Tim Tszyu went berserk. I saw it.”

Tszyu rejects the explanation by Zerafa and seems to side with Fenech's position on the matter - that Zerafa's demeanor changed at their recent face-off.

“I don’t think the story [presented by Zerafa] has any truth to it. It doesn’t make sense,” says Tszyu to Fox Sports.

“Maybe it’s the prep(aration) he had – some issues there. He’s a fighter – he fought Kell Brook – so it’s hard to believe he’s just scared. The whole thing has just blown me away.

“He was definitely rattled [at our recent face-off]. My reaction was cold and he didn’t like that. He backed down straight away but surely that wasn’t enough to scare him away. I don’t think so anyway.”

Fenech believes Spark is very dangerous and expects him to present a tougher challenge for Tszyu than Zerafa would have.

“This is a sight Tim has to be wary of,” Fenech said.

“You’ve gotta be so careful with these guys who believe in themselves, can punch and will step in and take on anyone. It’ll be tougher than what Zerafa would’ve been. If he’s been training, it’ll be a much tougher fight. This is a fight Tim’s really gotta be careful of. Don’t think it’s just a fill-in, he’s gotta think twice as hard for it. It’s a whole different thing a week before a fight.

“He’s gotta watch Stevie Spark and give him respect. He can punch and he’s not scared to fight anyone. They’re the ones you’ve gotta be scared of. He’s gonna go in saying, ‘I’m either gonna knock out, or I’m getting knocked out.”